Out of the window

It is perhaps one of the most basic lessons we were given as kids.

Language class tells us to say po and opo to our parents, older relatives and other figures of authority. Religion class tells us that we should not have any other god but, well, the Catholic god. Even homeroom class, if ever there was such a thing, tells us to ask for permission from everyone. You can't just, after all, storm out of the classroom to go to the toilets without telling your teacher the classic "may I go out?" line.

It is even a lesson that's enshrined in the school's rules. Simply, you shouldn't fight your classmates. Don't ever dare them to a match, either a shouting one or a more physical one. Don't raise your voice in front of your teacher, and your principal, and your janitor, and your canteen server. Don't throw a tantrum in class, for you're disrupting the flow of the lesson, annoying the rest of the class, and perhaps puts everyone in trouble.

I tried my best to follow those rules. After all, you don't want to be given a pink slip and have to explain yourself to the principal, or have your parents go to school at an unfortunate time, or get suspended for three days for your actions. Still, I managed to break a light bulb and hit four classmates' heads with a wooden ruler, and I was suspended for three days. But my principal loved me anyway. When I graduated from elementary school, she never faltered in giving me that piece of advice she always gave. Self-control.

I still made friends, even through that three-month hell period that followed. All it took was, perhaps, a little more effort to not offend anybody else - don't say wrong things, don't do wrong things, do think wrong things. It was a hard thing to do, considering that everybody else did not follow that. The whole population was against me, so to speak. So how exactly are you supposed to give respect to those who don't give you respect? Aren't you supposed to give way to each others' whims, when reasonable?

When I fought back, I found myself booted out.

And then I was reacquainted to those lessons in school. The circumstances may be different - "you have ADHD, which means you can be impulsive, which means you'll have to watch your actions more often" - but everything else remained the same. It was a long, hard road, but the message was still spot on. All those experiences with recovering drug users and teenage mothers and school dropouts and the occasionally naïve Filipino-Japanese girl have come in handy later, and while some cases differ than others, the template has been the same. Don't judge unless you've seen almost everything, and put everything else in consideration. That was the most basic, and most important, lesson we've been taught as kids, and are still being taught as adults. Respect.

I don't believe in it anymore.

Respect is, after all, just a way of keeping things in check. We all don't want chaos, sure, but would we rather keep quiet when things go awfully wrong? All for keeping the status quo?

It basically amounts to keeping quiet when things go differently than planned. It's not squealing when you're being stabbed, because they're in a position to do so and you aren't. It's keeping everything that you feel inside because nobody wants a commotion. Let go of just one inch, and regardless of the severity of your reaction, you get tagged for life. You're a tattle tale, you're a fightmonger, you're an arsonist, you just don't give a damn about what everybody else feels.

But the irony lies in the fact that not everybody deserves your respect, and those people are the ones squealing when you react to whatever they're doing. Why keep quiet when your parents abuse you? Why keep quiet when your classmates bully you? Why keep quiet when your friends call you names behind your back? Why keep quiet when your colleagues demand an answer they don't deserve?

Why keep quiet when you've spent most of your time trying to understand where they're coming from, and why they're doing certain things? Why keep quiet when they're accusing you of doing otherwise?

Whoever invented the concept of respect much be a lunatic. Why invent such an ideal when, all around you, people clearly would choose to disregard everybody else rather than give up their interests?

I've long believed in respect. I've long subscribed to it, not because of the weakness it exudes, but because people do deserve it. Those who look for the best way to keep everybody in check, without being unfair to anyone? Those who don't discriminate on the basis of presumed attitudes, or threats to their own? Those who make an effort and don't just leave it behind when it doesn't work for them? They do deserve it. And I have encountered such people, and to them I owe a lot.

But in a world where everybody would rather go against you, then my respect goes out of the window. Out goes respect for authority. Out goes respect for position. Out goes respect for values. Out goes everything we've learned in school, and everywhere else. It's time to play the game.

You can't just keep everything in, after all. You sometimes have to stab, and kill, everybody, just to get what you want. They've been doing it all along. Why can't you?

And your responses...

"You can't just keep everything in, after all. You sometimes have to stab, and kill, everybody, just to get what you want. They've been doing it all along. Why can't you?"


Anonymous alyn2/09/2009     

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